Update December 2018
Financial professionals have always considered themselves to be in the relationship business. The image of the small town insurance agent who knows everyone (and everyone’s business) is deeply ingrained into our minds. Often they were the only source of information for their clients. That made them one of the pillars of the community and they were trusted advisors.
But the world has changed. Whether someone lives in a rural town or a booming metropolis, they are only a few mouse clicks away from a wealth of information on products, markets, and prices. Your customers don’t have to rely on you anymore. They can sit in front of their computer or pull out their smart phones.
When the seller has most of the information, it’s called information asymmetry, and in the world of financial services, information asymmetry is a thing of the past.
Create Genuine Connections
So if you are a financial professional, you are now in a commodity business whether you like it or not. Customers can buy insurance policies and stocks online – without ever talking to a live person. They don’t need you – you are luxury. If you know your economics (and my guess is you do), you know that prices for commodities fall to a point where there’s almost no marginal profit. Not a fun business to be in.
How can you compete if you can’t set yourself apart by your access to information? You get back to basics and build your business the traditional way: by creating relationships. A trusted advisor is a valuable one. When you can help your clients make the best decisions possible, they’re going to keep you around and pay you for your perspective.
You work to understand their specific needs so well that you become indispensable. Your expertise will allow you to see what they need, often before they can see it for themselves.
Ironically, one of the best ways to communicate that is by using the same technology that leavened the playing field: social media. Tools like LinkedIn, blogs, and your website become the platforms where you can share your unique perspective. It’s where you demonstrate your brand – who you help and how you help them.
Sharing Your Unique Message
When looking at how to share your message, you first have to decide what message you are going to share. There are two steps to this. The first is to decide exactly who you are going to work with – who your target audience is. You can’t know how to help everybody, so pick the group that you want to work with. Ignore the impulse to say, “anyone with a pulse”.
It’s hard to be a generalist these days when there are so many options. Your clients want someone who knows them and their specific issues. Think of the niches that attorneys fill (tax, family, corporate, etc.). What is the “special sauce” that you can bring to the table? What unique perspective and skill set do you provide?
Your clients are trying to solve their own problems. What are the experiences, perspectives, and skills that you can bring to bear on their case?
Once you know who you want to work with and what you want to share, the last question is “Are you willing to put yourself out there?” Are you willing to be profersonaltm and let your prospects and clients get to know you?
This term describes the eroding line between between our personal and professional lives on social media. It’s not a new idea, we’ve always connected with our clients and colleagues on a personal level.
Social media is just making it more apparent as we bring this mix into our online conversations. You’ve probably encouraged your clients to be open with you so you can give them better advice. In the same way, the more they can connect with you as a person, the stronger your relationship will be.
Once you’ve made the decision to bring your personality and unique perspective into your marketing, you can really hone in on sharing who you are. Using the LinkedIn profile as our canvas, we can look at ways that you can communicate your personality in a professional and effective way.
Be Profersonal™ Online
Being profersonal means that you’ll keep the tone of your profile professional, but you’ll let who you are as a human come out as well. Share your professional competence and experience, but also share your unique story.
If you are struggling with this, imagine that your perfect client is in front of you and you are talking directly to them. Here are some ways that you can share your personality through your LinkedIn profile.
Using a polished head shot with a great smile is never a bad idea, but you can let your personality come through here a bit (as long as you are doing it on purpose). Is your office near your alma mater and you still bleed your school’s colors? Then maybe some school memorabilia will make it into your photo.
Or if you often speak on financial topics, how about a photo of you on stage? Have a little fun, and always make sure that you stay consistent with your overall message (don’t put a photo of you at the beach if your profile focuses on how hard you work for your clients…).
This is an easy place to let your personality come through, but it’s usually misused (if it’s used at all). If your profile summary is filled with vague buzzwords that make your eyes glaze over, then trust me, your visitors are bored too. A great way to flesh out your summary is to be very specific with how you help people. Don’t assume that they know how you work – tell them. And you can also add a profersonal statement right into the summary, which is a little bit about one of your favorite activities outside of your professional life. Here are more ideas for writing the perfect summary.
The paths that lead people into the financial profession are as numerous as the people in the financial profession. How you got to where you are is important. Don’t just tell people what your past jobs were. Tell them what you learned at those jobs and how they influenced the way you approach your work today. Were you a teacher, an engineer, an artist? Your career is yours alone and creates a unique perspective – share it.
An obvious way to set yourself apart is how you choose to give one of your most precious resources, your time. Whether you are involved in civic organizations, industry associations, or humanitarian causes, let people know what is important to you.
And don’t list nine associations just to make yourself look good. Your reader knows you’re pandering. I’d rather have someone tell me they are passionate about one topic, like housing the homeless, than someone puffing up their chest with all the meetings they go to.
Be sure to list your educational experiences, and list your major and extracurricular activities as well. Where you choose to put your academic focus says a lot about you, even if it doesn’t appear relevant to the financial world. Also, you never know when a potential client was also a biology major or wrote for the college newspaper and now you have a shared connection. And stay connected with other alumni.
These are just a few of the places you can demonstrate your personality, but they’re a great start. Your prospects and clients can find information about what to do with their money from thousands of sources online, but they can only find out about you from you. Take the time to share your message and your personality with your clients, and the benefits will come back over a lifetime of stronger (and more productive) relationships.